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17th&18th c. Philosophy

Philosophy 312

Spring 2011, TuTh 2:45–4:05

Room: BA-215 ED-21

Overview: The period in philosophy from Descartes to Kant, from the mid-17th to the late 18th century, was dominated by the system of ideas — the assumption that the only objects of direct perception are ideas occurring in our own minds. We’ll chart the rise and fall of the system of ideas through the philosophies of René Descartes, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant.

Professor: P.D. Magnus

Campus phone: 2-4251

Office: HU-258

Office hours: M and Th noon–1:00; also by appointment


two in-class exams @ 20%

final exam 25%

paper draft 10%

paper final 25%

The paper will be 6–8 pages on an assigned topic.

A rough draft will be due during Week 12 (April 7). The paper will be returned to you with comments and the final draft will be due at the last class meeting (May 3). You should turn in the rough draft along with the final.

The draft will be marked with the grade it would have received if it were a final draft. If the paper is not improved, however, the final draft will not receive this grade! If you turn in the paper unmodified, you will get one letter grade less than the grade marked on the draft.

Class participation Participation in class discussion is required. Exemplary participation will add to your grade, up to two-thirds of a letter grade. For example, a B could become an A–.

Course texts

The following books are available at Mary Jane Books, at the corner of Western and Quail:

* Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham et al.
ISBN 9780521558181

* Kant Critique of Pure Reason abridged, translated by Werner Pluhar
ISBN 9780872204485

In addition, readings from Locke, Berkeley, and Hume will available on the course e-res page; the e-res password is modern


Academic honesty: Students are encouraged to discuss issues from the course with each other and with others outside of class. However, they are responsible for their own ideas. Papers should include citations to any works cited or consulted, as well as acknowledgments of helpful interactions.

Cheating will not be tolerated.

Late papers: The paper will be considered late if it is not ready to hand in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. Each day late will result in a loss of one letter grade.

Absences: Students who will need to miss class for religious observance, away games, or for other scheduled reasons should discuss these issues with the professor at the beginning of the term. If an emergency results in absence, the student should contact the professor as soon as possible. Make-up exams will be given only for documented, excused absences.


We are studying five philosophers this term, each for about two weeks. The following is a provisional schedule.

Th jan20

René Descartes

Tu jan25
Meditation 1
(read: 3–15, recommended: 63–67)
Th jan27
Meditation 2
(read: 16–23, recommended: 68–77)
Tu feb1
Meditation 3
(read: 24–36, recommended: 78–89)
Th feb3
Meditations 4–5
(read: 37–49, recommended: 90–106)
Tu feb8
Meditation 6
(read: 50–62, recommended: 107–115)
Th feb10

John Locke

Tu feb15
Innate ideas
(read pages 2–13)
Th feb17
Personal identity
(read pages 13–25)
Tu mar1
General terms
(read pages 25–30)

George Berkeley

Th mar3
Preface and Introduction
(read pages 1–11)
Tu mar8
(read pages 11–19)
Th mar10
(read pages 19–29)
Tu mar15
(read pages 34–45)
Th mar17
(read pages 45–54)
Tu mar22
Th mar24
Paper assignment
begin Hume
(read §II, pages 6–9)

David Hume

Tu mar29
Hume on ideas
(read §III, pages 9–10)
Th mar31
Sceptical worries
(read §IV, pages 10–18)
Tu apr5
The sceptical solution
(read §V pt 1 & §XII, pages 18–21, 70–78)
Th apr7
Causal power
(read §VII, pages 26–36)

Immanuel Kant

Tu apr12
Preface and Introduction
(read pages 1–24)
Th apr14
The Transcendental Aesthetic
(read pages 25–38)
Tu apr26
The Deduction
(read pages 39–65)
Th apr28
The Deduction
Tu may3
Concluding thoughts
Th may12 8:00–10:00 AM
Final exam